Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Feather to Fly With by Joyce Harmon

My Experience: A
Synopsis:   In Regency England, young ladies make their fortune by marrying it. But Cleo Cooper has come to London with a different idea – she’s going to make her fortune by stealing it. Raised abroad by unconventional parents, Cleo has no use for the rules and strictures of the ton. She’ll pretend to fit in, but she has a secret scheme. 
Arthur Ramsey, Duke of Winton, is in the market for a wife. He imagines a sweet, conformable young lady who will gracefully fill the role of Duchess, secure the succession with an heir, and not interfere with his scientific pursuits. That’s what he’s looking for – but what he finds is Cleo. 

Surrounded by society, servants and a sense of humor, Justin Amesbury valiantly guides the bewildered Arthur Ramsey, sixth Duke of Winton on his matrimonial quest, little realizing his own heart is in peril.  Socially awkward Arthur, with further assistance from his mother, might manage to attach the woman fit to be her successor, if he approaches it all with the proper scientific method, takes good notes and remembers to send flowers, not books, as tokens of his regard.

Like the song says, “But if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.”  In this beguiling romp, everyone has needs.  Arthur needs a bride fit to be a duchess and to correct the Royal Society’s expert on planetary orbits.  Cleo Cooper needs courage to follow her plan and settle her family’s finances.  Felicity Harwell needs a brilliant match and a good friend, if only it could be the same person.  Justin needs to be taken a bit more seriously than he’d like to admit and a shepherd’s staff.  Observing how these needs combine to reach the felicitous happy ending is quite the adventure.

This truly is regency romance in the classic tradition at its best.  There are plots, schemes, moments perilous to reputations and of course, tangles of the heart that must be sorted out.  It isn’t a breathless ride, but you will find yourself catching and holding your breath, releasing it with a laugh that might give away the fact you’re not working.

The characters carry this tale so you forget they are not really Originals, except for their time and place and how adroitly they maneuver beyond the clich├ęs.  Their manner and interaction are totally believable and obligingly kind without losing their spirit and becoming wax caricatures.   And, joy of joys, there is only one jealous cat, and everyone totally ignores her - ha - so there!    The secondary characters never deteriorate to two dimensions and sensible solutions to fumbles and missteps renew your faith in humanity.

Ms.  Harmon’s writing is crisp and her atmosphere created with a subtle hand.  She places you in the moment without using lengthy personal monologues or contrived conflict.  I never felt she was juggling flaming pineapples to keep me from looking too closely at the plot or characters.  Instead, I felt invited to take my leisure, to appreciate the fact “society is composed of some very silly people.”  This is a rare gift in these days of modern heroines in regency dresses coupled with sensitive new-age rakes.  She takes four people with their assorted needs, dependants, relations and resources, then proves the adventure of reaching the happily ever after IS the soul of romantic literature.  That you can have that adventure walking briskly or strolling socially is something she never loses sight of so you don’t either.

Definitely a keeper. I can’t wait to find more books from Ms. Harmon, I hope she plots and plans as quickly as Chloe does!

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